Separated from her parents since age two, Noam opens up socially after attending an early childhood care and development centre

29 September 2014

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Noam Htar, a four-year old girl natively born in Thailand, moved to Myanmar to live with her grandparents at the age of two. Currently living in Hmaing Kan, Kayin State, Myanmar, her grandparents had been left to raise her along with her older sister, while her parents work in Thailand. “Her parents moved to Thailand 12 years ago. Her mother works as a housemaid and her father sells snacks on the streets. It is hard for them to care for the children in Thailand so they brought them to me,” said Noam’s grandmother, Daw Hpai Maw, 75.

Although Noam lives away from her parents, they still contribute to support Noam and her sister. “She frequently asks about her parents. They do not visit every year, usually every two years,” Daw Hpai Maw said. “They send money to me every month, usually about 100,000kyat (about 100USD). But that is not enough for my husband and I to raise the two children and feed ourselves too. Since we have five other children, we ask them to send us money and with that it is enough for us to live,” she said.

Only approximately 22.9% of children have access to early childhood care and development centers in Myanmar. Without this access, many children living in the Myanmar region do not have ability to develop holistically, hindering their chances of attaining higher and formal education. Children from ethnic backgrounds do not learn the Myanmar language at home, making it difficult for them to transition into schooling. Save the Children’s early childhood care and development intervention, an education focused holistic development in a child’s early years, aims to support the learning of languages, development of social skills, good hygiene behavior, and the training of caretakers to understand the importance of nutrition. Save the Children is implementing early childhood care and development projects in five townships across Myanmar, and has been working in 42 townships since 1997. Over 18,000 children have been reached in the five townships since January 2013.

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“When the center was set up, Save the Children staff came here and told us about the importance of ECCD. They told us that the centre would help prepare the children to learn in school,” Daw Hpai Maw said. After three months of attending the center, Noam had showed tremendous progress and improvement. “Before attending this center, Noam did not speak to anyone else but me. She didn’t smile at all, and did not like talking to other people. But now, she sings songs and talks to the teachers. Noam could not pronounce words well either. But now that she attends this center, she speaks more fluently. She can also write and draw,” Daw Hpai Maw said.

Noam’s teachers at the centre had a similar response about her progress. Daw Sein Sein, Noam’s teacher indicated that there had been effective improvement in Noam’s development since she started. “Noam Thar has only been here for the past three months. When she first came, she did not speak a word. She would not introduce herself to other children or talk to anyone. She didn’t want to tell us when she needed to use the restroom. But we gradually encouraged her to speak more like the other children,” she said. “Now she has improved and tells us when she needs to use the bathroom. At times, she is unsure of what her grandmother has packed for her lunch and she would ask us about the food. There have been huge changes so far; but she still doesn’t smile at all.”

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“I hope the children grow up to be good people. I want them to continue studying and maybe become teachers one day,” Noam’s grandmother said.